Last Of The Buttoned-Down Artists: Ellsworth Kelly, 1923-2015


Ellsworthy Kelly, surely one of the last of a generation of artists who combined abstract art with blue buttondowns worn unironically, has died at the age of 92. There’s plenty of news coverage here, while below is an interview from his later years:

21 Comments on "Last Of The Buttoned-Down Artists: Ellsworth Kelly, 1923-2015"

  1. Bags' Groove | December 28, 2015 at 4:33 pm |

    For me Ellsworth Kelly will always be the artist who kept the light of Kazimir Malevich burning bright.

  2. Anglophile Trad | December 29, 2015 at 2:20 am |

    His shirt looks heavily starched. A nice change from the rumpled look that some misled readers of this blog think is authentic Ivy.

  3. @Anglophile Trad

    The shirt looks to me to be of the non-iron variety and uninspired, much like his paintings.


  4. The Boston Globe said Kelly combined an everyday French suavity with vaulting American confidence……..yet totally failed to mention that his shirt looked “heavily starched” or “of the non-iron variety”.
    You’ve just lost a giant of American art, and this is all you two guys can talk about?
    Sad. So sad.

    • With respect, I am not overly concerned with what The Boston Globe, or most other publications for that matter, think about Ellsworth Kelly or any other artist. I’m not entirely certain what they mean my everyday French suavity with vaulting American confidence either. My bullshit detector starts blinking at such phrases.

      If you appreciate his work, good for you. A few of his floral drawings were interesting and a self portrait I happened to see were nice enough but the work he is known for are not interesting to me in the least.


  5. Bags' Groove | December 31, 2015 at 6:57 pm |

    I’m also not overly concerned with what the Boston Globe says. I used it to contrast your risible comments. I think Christian succinctly summed it up.

  6. Sorry boys, I just don’t think he was all that talented. If not caring for a particular artist’s work makes one a philistine, then so be it. I feel the same way about Pollock, Renoir and Whistler. Lest you think I am the type of person who buys art at Target, I happen to own a few pieces of original art by Diebenkorn, Gorky, Baskin (I own the wood blocks and several signed woodcuts). My parents were fortunate enough to have met in art school in the early sixties and acquired and were given original art by great artists. Robert Tombs threw my father his bachelor party. I have been immersed in art all my life. If my comments are risible, oh well, I think they are somewhat educated.

    Gentlemen, I sincerely wish you and yours a very happy, healthy new year.


  7. Bags' Groove | January 1, 2016 at 3:12 am |

    What can I say, except that you’ve more than redeemed yourself, particularly with a piece of Gorky’s work in your possession. Goodness me, few can make that claim. He’s someone whose work I’ve always admired.
    With that degree of involvement in art I now find it hard to understand why you were so dismissive of Kelly’s work.
    Still, never mind. May I wish you and yours a happy and peaceful new year.

  8. Bags' Groove | January 1, 2016 at 3:42 am |

    Ps: I’ll have to whisper this, as I know it almost amounts to sacrilege, but I have to confess to not caring for the work of Picasso, try as I may over the years.
    Braque, on the other hand…

  9. Pollack, Renoir and Whistler is an interestingly random troika of artists not to particularly like.

    Most of Renoir is pretty bland. As for Whistler, I tend to prefer portraits OF him rather than portraits BY him. The one by Boldini, for example.

    But his famous portrait of the dandy Robert de Montesquiou is here in NY at the Frick and is certainly a delight, if only for all of that Belle Epoque history it evokes (one of my chief interests).

    As for Pollack, have you seen one in person? The famous humongous one at the MOMA is breathtaking. It’s like it’s moving. It feels alive.

  10. @Christian

    My interests are many and varied in most things. I will admit to having Rage Against the Machine, Miles Ahead by Miles Davis and The Goldberg Variations by Glenn Gould side by side in my VW TDI. It is amazing how fast you get places when listening to Rage Against the Machine you know. Regarding Pollock, I do appreciate his work, just don’t care for it. I do appreciate it for WHEN it was done though. Speaking of the MOMA, I took a chance and touched Woman #1 by de Kooning back in the early nineties and Starry Night was quite breathtaking. Renoir, what can I say? Renoir, to me was that era’s Thomas Kincaide. I am not proud to know of Thomas Kincaide, but what the hell. I have never seen the portraits OF Whistler to which you refer.


    Regarding Picasso, what can I say, there are works of his that don’t interest me but, WOW, is there a great deal of his that I love. I appreciate Braque, but I always thought Picasso knew that is was time to leave Cubism as Braque stuck with it a bit too long. Just my opinion of course.



  11. Bags' Groove | January 1, 2016 at 4:02 pm |

    Before I’d ever seen a Jackson Pollock painting in person I felt I knew more about the man than I did his paintings: this wild, supposedly untrained artist, omnipresent cigarette dangling, jazz playing on his phonograph, working at full speed, dripping paint everywhere, dashing out these weird, bewildering paintings. Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post cover of the dapper gentleman with hat and umbrella in front of a Pollack-esque square of chaotic colour only corroborated this perceived image of his work.
    So when I finally got to stand before a Pollock, the impact it had on me was so much greater than I’d ever expected. A huge rectangular canvas which not only had this dazzling array of colours, but also, to my amazement, had structure, rhythm, was almost measured; qualities those writing articles about him had hardly mentioned. There was nothing wild or haphazard about his work at all.
    Since those long gone days there’s hardly been a Pollock I’ve not enjoyed standing in front of, in which I’ve not found most of those wonderful attributes.
    For me he was the greatest abstract expressionist. I’d even go so far as to say he was what abstract expressionism was all about.

  12. Henry Contestwinner | January 2, 2016 at 4:12 am |

    It’s fashionable to dump on Thomas Kincaide, I know, and perhaps his art is lowbrow. Having said that, at least it is art: it is a representation of beauty, with a peek into the transcendent. While I would not put Kincaide in the same category as da Vinci, Michelangelo, the Dutch Masters, etc., I do put him far above the producers of modern “art”—all the pretentious nonsense that is ugly, provocative, and nihilistic.

    A short video essay called “Why is Modern Art so Bad?” by artist Robert Florczak is available here:

    An hour-long video essay called “Why Beauty Matters” by philosopher Roger Scruton is available here:

  13. @Henry

    Are you familiar with the works of Bob Ross?


  14. Bags' Groove | January 3, 2016 at 4:35 am |

    Dare I say, painting a more cognisant picture:

  15. I had the misfortune of going to a nice suburb of Detroit during Christmas holiday with my wife to see in-laws and visited the DIA. There was a great deal to like about the museum, and a great deal to dislike-Diego Rivera’s communist murals for one, but I did see a transcendent Ben Nicholson painting near a haunting Modigliani. The Braque two paintings down from the Modigliani was nice as well. Where were the Bob Ross happy clouds?


  16. Bags' Groove | January 4, 2016 at 4:59 am |

    No results to searches for Modligliani, Braque or Nicholson on the DIA site. It’s the “transcendent” Nicholson painting that I have to see; I doubt there’s a greater devotee.
    Having seen the work of such a towering trio, Detroit seems nothing like a “misfortune” to me.

  17. Henry Contestwinner | January 5, 2016 at 12:19 am |

    Yes, sacksuit, I am. I think Bob Ross is great, because he encouraged people to paint, to express themselves artistically. I wouldn’t want his “happy little trees” adorning my home—not my style—but his work is of inestimably greater value than that of any Turner Prize winner.

  18. @Henry

    We won’t agree on Bob Ross, Thomas Kincade, P Buckley Moss, Big Eyed Children or Clown painting with which I’m sure we are all familiar, but Turner Prize winners-I had to look up Turner Prize-seem to be made up of hopelessly unimaginative and untalented dingleberries. Shit on a canvas. Get a load of Grayson Perry. I wish I could unlearn that bit of information.


  19. Henry Contestwinner | January 5, 2016 at 4:54 pm |

    Will Sacksuit,

    I’m glad we’ve reached a consensus (of a sort). I’m sorry I made you look up “Turner Prize,” and, based on your reaction, I will refrain from searching on “Grayson Perry.” I agree that the Turner Prize winners and grantors are prize idiots.

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